THE IMPACT OF LABORATORY FACILITIES ON THE ACADEMIC PERFORMANCE OF SECONDARY SCHOOL CHEMISTRY STUDENT IN NIGERIA
It has been recognized that Scienceand Technology play a significant role in the development of many societies. As such, Science is being scrutinized with the aim of improving the lives of humans. In view of the above, Mashi, Inkani, and Yaro, (2014) asserted that many developed countries of the world today achieved their level of development through the adaptation of technology and development of an efficient Science and technology capacity.Many breakthroughs that man has recorded in the quest to improve his life were achieved through the knowledge of Science.(Akambi and Kolawole, 2014).
Science according to the Academic American Encyclopedia as cited in Ugwuoke(2017) is defined as the development and systematization of positive knowledge about the physical universe. On other hand, technology is seen as the art of making things generally useful to man. So,it can be clinched that Sciencegenerates the body of knowledge and understanding which Technology depends on to produce goods and services.
Research conducted in Sciences has led to the departmentalization of Science into different branches such as
- Physical Science which look at the physical aspects of how things work. The major subsets are Chemistry, Physics and Astronomy
- Life Science also called Biology,explore how different life forms work. Common subsets under it are Botany, Nutrition, Zoology, Genetics, Human Biology, and Medicine.
- Earth Sciencehave as its subset Geology, Paleontology, Meteorology, Oceanography and Ecology.
However, to ensure that scientific growth and development in the nationit became pertinent that Science be taught at all levels of education. At the senior secondary level Science is departmentalized into Chemistry, Biology and Physics to encompass all branches of Science.
Chemistry is one of the major fields that spearhead the study of Science for national development.It is a natural Science which studies composition, structure, properties and change of matter. (Arokoyu, and Charles-Ogan, 2017).Chemistry is typically divided into several major sub-disciplines such as Analytical Chemistry, BioChemistry, InChemistry, Materials Chemistry, Nuclear Chemistry, and Chemistry.Chemistryinvolves the scientific study of the structure, properties, and reactions of organiccompounds and organicmaterials, i.e., matter in its various forms that contain carbonatoms(Clayden, Greeves, and Warren, 2012).Matter, from the chemical point of view, consists of the substances encountered in daily life in whatever phase such as solid, liquids, gaseous and plasma, as well as the atoms and molecules of which these substances are composed
For Chemistry to be studied as a scientific discipline one needs to be continuously involved in a series of guided experimentation which can only be carried out under the conditions of a well-equipped laboratory facility. However,despite the prime position Chemistry occupies in our educational system in Nigeria and the efforts made by researchers to enhance performance, students’ performance in Chemistry and Sciences, in general, are still low. Two of the reasons identified for this failure are laboratory inadequacy and the environment. The adequacy and use of educational resources like laboratory facilities enhance the effectiveness of teachers’ lesson and understanding of abstract ideas and improve performance. Chemistry teaching is supposed to be result oriented and student centered, and this can only be achieved when students are willing, and the teachers are favorably disposed to, using the appropriate methods and resources in teaching the students.
Students by nature are curious; they need to be actively involved in the learning process in which they are continuously experimenting, testing, speculating and building their own personal construct and knowledge. It is only by personalizing such knowledge that it becomes valid, meaningful and useful to them. Knowledge is actively constructed through the action of an individual. Clayden; Greeves, and Warren, (2012),propose thatall Science must be underpinned by evidence. According to Watts (2013), Practical work is formative as it helps the students to understand Science and how the scientific ideas are developed. To achieve the goals of Science education, it is imperative that an attempt is made to balance emphasis on both theory and experiments. The skills normally emphasized in Science practical include procedural and manipulative, observation, drawing and reporting and interpretative skills. The purposes of practical work include:
- motivation of students;
- excitement of discovery;
- consolidation of theory;
- development of manipulative skills;
- knowledge of standard techniques;
- general understanding of data handling;
- development of other skills like analytic, evaluative, planning, applied and mathematical; and developing an understanding of how Science works through concept of scientific process, collaborative working, reproducible results and fair testing.
Experiments are the essence of Science. And all such experiments must be performed in the school Sciencelaboratory.
Laboratory has been a distinctive feature in the teaching of Science. Nbina (2013), defined a Science Laboratory as an instructional facility used by Scienceteachers to help the students learn about Scienceand how the scientists investigate the world around them. It is a place set aside for scientific inquiry. To him the laboratory experiences provide opportunities for students to interact directly with the material world or with data drawn from the material world, using tools, data collection techniques, models and theories of Science. Examining the role of the laboratory and its potential for contribution to Science education. The laboratory can provide students with an understanding of procedures for scientific investigation, including control of certain variables, careful observation and recording of data and the development of conclusions. In summary, the study of Science through laboratory experience serves a dual function. The students learn the concepts of, and facts of the Science itself and, in addition, learn how to grow in their knowledge and understanding of Science.
A Chemistry Laboratory offers the environment and resources for teaching practical Chemistry skills, which help students handle examination; and their day-to-day affairs. When the students are given the chance to learn through more senses than one, they can learn faster and easier. Indeed, the identification, manipulation, and overall use of laboratory equipment are integral parts of the subject of Chemistry. Many, if not most of the concepts and principles common in secondary school Chemistry, can be demonstrated or delivered through experiments performed with simple apparatus. The Chemistry laboratory represents a wonderful opportunity for making the connection between the unseen microscopic world and the observable macroscopic world in which we live. Laboratory experiences provide opportunities for team building, inquiry-based learning, hands-on activities, and exposure to standard laboratory equipment and technology (Arokoyu, and Charles-Ogan, 2017).
The foundation of a child’s education is built from the primary and secondary level. However, today more students are entering post-secondary education with diversity of learning styles and varied stages of preparedness to further their studies and contribute to the substantial development of the society. Teachers are therefore hard pressed to bridge this gap that hampers equality in education for all children. The absence of properly equipped and functioning Chemistry laboratories in many Senior Secondary Schools in Ethiope West Local Government Area of Delta State, as well as the underutilization of the available ones as identified earlier impede the proper teaching of Chemistry which is one of the requirements for Science students to gain a certificate at this level. This results in a lot of undergraduates finding it difficult to do well in Chemistry and its related discipline in the Higher Institution. Therefore,an extensive investigation on the availability of Chemistry laboratory facilities in senior secondary schools as well as its usability to teach Chemistryin schools becomes very necessary.
When one has the knowledge of Chemistry you not only benefit yourself but also benefit the people around you because Chemistry helps you to understand the world you live in. Everything you touch, smell, or taste is Chemistry related. It explains the everyday things we encounter like what causes water to solidify when cooled as well as dry up when heated, why you fry egusi in palm oil before adding water and the other ingredients. In fact, knowledge of Chemistry helps you to make educated choices about every day products that you use.
Our nation Nigeria has seen how necessary Chemistry is for our development. Therefore, it is one of the essential subjects required for certification in Secondary Schools as well as compulsory for admission into certain fields of study like Medicine, Science, and Engineering in many Higher Institutions. Chemistry being a sub-set of Chemistry is very vital for building a solid foundation in Chemistry at the secondary level. However, there are certain concepts in Chemistry that may be difficult for the students to understand fully if they were only taught theoretically. There are a few topics in secondary school Chemistry that require laboratory work. According to Ababio (2010), these topics include:
- fractional distillation of crude oil and testing the properties of each fraction;
- cracking of medicinal paraffin;
- hydrolysis of an ester (ethyl ethanoate);
- preparation of soap from castor oil;
- hydrolysis of starch by an enzyme;
- preparation of Perspex.
The Practical lab work conducted on these topics will make the concepts less abstract and more real to the students. Emphasizing understanding by doing, in other words, experiencing them through laboratory activities. This can only be achieved when the facilities for these activities exist, are well equipped and utilized. Hence, the need to investigate the availability and usability of Laboratory Facilities for the teaching of Chemistry in Secondary Schools